Troye Sivan is a very good popstar, and he has a new EP out either now or tomorrow depending where in the world you are.
A few weeks ago Troye came to London so we thought we'd have a chat with him about some things. Things we wanted to discuss included his EP, his career, and the position he and other YouTube 'sensations' might have in the charts. We also wanted to ask him if he would do a duet with Olly from Years & Years because we thought it would sound nice but also because we thought Olly might see it and retweet the link or something.
Troye is a very obliging man so he answered all those questions, and some other ones too.
Here's how the chat went.
I LOVE LONDON. I came on a family holiday when I was twelve, we went around Europe and London was my Number One place, but I don’t think I could handle a London winter. I’m glad it’s overcast today; I expect clouds. If it was sunny I’d feel cheated.
So your EP is good, which is a relief.
I was so excited when you tweeted me that because I read the website all the time and I was very relieved that you liked it.
Well I was relieved as well because you know how annoying it is when a decent popstar comes along, you decide you like them, then they release a load of old shit.
Yeah. There’s definitely been a lot of pressure to have this era — from [tooltip type="link" link="#" target="_self" tooltip="That's the name of the EP we're here to chat about" style="top" ]'Wild'[/tooltip] until the end of the year — be like the time we start appealing to a lot of people. But at the same time I want to stay true to myself and everything. The writing was me and collaborators I found early on that I just really enjoy working with. In garages, hotel rooms, places like that. And there were opportunities to work on songs that are coming out later in the year with people like Jack Antonoff. So it’s people like that, but also Alex Hope from Sydney, this 21-year-old girl who just started production a year ago and is now one of my best friends. It just felt really authentic and organic and I’m really happy with all the songs.
These great friends you’ve made: are you going to bring them all out on stage like [tooltip type="link" link="#" target="_self" tooltip="Singer of song almost as popular with music fans as she is with people monitoring Google Analytics on behalf of major comment sites" style="top" ]Taylor Swift[/tooltip]?
(Groans) Oh I don’t know. (Laughs) I mean maybe. I wrote a lot with Allie X and she would be fucking INSANE to bring out, I think. I saw some footage of her first live show and she’s already such a pro. She’s insane. Are you familiar with her?
Yes. It’s hard to know what to make of it all really. It seems a little too self-consciously stylised in some respects. I can’t figure out how into it she really is. It’s like the Natalia Kills problem, know what I mean?
Yeah. You know what is, I think, encouraging? That she’s one thousands percent the mastermind behind the whole thing. So it is surprisingly authentic. I know it’s so ‘much’, but when you hear her sing and the way she writes, and see the shit she wears on a daily basis, it’s all really real. It’s not an act. I think you’ll see that when she starts putting out more shit.
You once said: “I share every aspect of my life with the internet.”
Well I share a lot, but not everything.
The question I was going to ask was about how and why it took you a year to tell ‘the internet’ you’d signed a record deal. And obviously it’s an illusion with YouTubers just like it’s an illusion in pop — this notion of ‘I’m being completely straightforward with you’. But why did you keep it back?
Well I just wanted to get everything right. It’s kind of weird but the music creation process is a really personal and vulnerable one, and I can think of absolutely nothing worse than a rough demo leaking, or being heard before it’s supposed to be heard. I just didn’t want to talk about it until it was ready to be done. And understanding how the music industry works, being signed to a major label and everything, there’s a [tooltip type="link" link="#" target="_self" tooltip="More likely to be around twelve" style="top" ]million[/tooltip] people that everything has to go through. ‘You’ve got to submit music this many weeks in advance so that it can be [tooltip type="link" link="#" target="_self" tooltip="This is what music industry people say when they mean 'chucked on iTunes'" style="top" ]ingested[/tooltip]’, that sort of thing. ‘This music video has to be done this many months before’, and so on. I’m really lucky that I have such an engaged, excited fanbase and I think if I’d started talking about music when I first signed, and the pressure to get it done quickly… Well, that’s not the mentality I wanted to have when I was making music. I wanted to be able to take the time I needed.
Presumably the pressure you put on yourself — and I get the impression you put a lot of pressure on yourself — would have been enough to be getting on with. You don’t need [tooltip type="link" link="#" target="_self" tooltip="Literally millions this time — Troye has 3.5m YouTube subscribers and over 2.8m Twitter followers" style="top" ]millions[/tooltip] of people shouting at you.
Yeah. Once I came near the end of the process I started teasing a little more but it’s overwhelming. And by the time this interview comes out things will be different but right now they haven’t heard any music and there’s a four or five week [tooltip type="link" link="#" target="_self" tooltip="Technical music biz term for one thing coming after another" style="top" ]rollout[/tooltip] on my socials: the pressure and hype is already at boiling point and I think if I’d had this when I writing I would have had a nervous breakdown.
If Drake asked you to ghostwrite him a song, would you give him one?
ONE THOUSAND PERCENT. But the problem is that I’m such a fan of Drake’s writing that I’d probably freeze and not be able to do anything.
What sort of thing would you give him?
My favourite song of his is ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’, but he also wrote that Alicia Keys song, ‘Un-thinkable’, which is one of my favourite songs ever ever [tooltip type="link" link="#" target="_self" tooltip="EVER!" style="top" ]ever[/tooltip]. So I’d just trust him and ask him what he wanted to do. But I don’t think I’d be able to function in the room!
How about a nice duet for Olly Alexander’s solo album?
Yeah! But is that happening?
Well when I interviewed him he said he’d do one. So let’s assume it’s when not if.
Well I think that would be really cool. I think our voices would sound nice together. He’s really nice, too. I love him.
He is a nice chap.
Yeah, I… Yeah. I’d want to hang out with him. A lot.
Is there a popular duet you’d like to cover with him?
I think we’d have to write something new. A nice pop ballad would be really good. A GAY BALLAD. There’s not many romantic male-on-male duets.
How would a gay ballad differ from a straight ballad?
It would be the exact same, just with two boys singing it.
If you could eliminate one social injustice a year, each year for five years, which would you choose and in what order?
Number one would be LGBT discrimination across the globe. Number two would be racial discrimination across the globe.
And we’re doing this in order?
Well to be honest they’re all equally important. If they all happen within five years I’d be happy. And those two hit pretty much everything. Then there’s poverty, that’s a pretty shit thing I’d like to fix. Then I’d make sure people adopt a lot and that kids get to live with families. And then animals that don’t have homes.
STOP! That’s your five.
I’m scared I’ve forgotten something.
Well there’s women.
Women! Feminist issues! Okay that’s before animals. Animals can wait another few years. Let’s take care of people first.
Now as a pop artiste your origins story actually involves [tooltip type="link" link="#" target="_self" tooltip="He was in some sort of Wolverine film" style="top" ]being in[/tooltip] an origins story, which is nice. Have you knocked acting on the head now or what?
The thing is, I’m not really sure if I’m good at it yet. I haven’t really focused on it and I’ve never taken an acting class. I could definitely do some work on that front. I think I’ll focus on music for a bit. Acting is something I have ambitions to get better at and explore, but music’s number one for me.
And what’s the actual album going to be like? It feels like you’re kind of putting off releasing one.
It was important to think: right, it’s 2015, what makes sense? And what makes sense for me is a lot of con… Well, I come from online, where —
Were you about to say #content?
(Laughs) Yeah, basically. I come from where I upload every single week on my YouTube channel and I know that if you don’t tweet for a couple of days you’re in shit: your engagement goes down. So I’m like, how can I release music in a way that makes sense to me, and makes sense to my fans? And so we’ve got this incredible rollout that was very creatively stimulating. But yeah we’ve got six songs coming out September 4 on the ‘Wild’ EP and then a whole body of work before the end of the year.
And that body of work is an album?
Well, it’s a lot of songs. It’s… Yeah. It’s more than twelve songs.
That’s an album. You are allowed to say the word ‘album’.
The thing is —
You’re like Robyn! You’re WORSE than Robyn!
I just don’t think they’re that creatively exciting! What if I do wanna do a [tooltip type="link" link="#" target="_self" tooltip="Apparently we're supposed to call that a 'Tringle' these days" style="top" ]three-song EP[/tooltip]? I find it fun! You can do different sounds, different topics… The idea of a single or two singles into a twelve track album, and the idea that if one of the singles doesn’t get picked up at radio you’re fucked, all of that’s just really scary and wrong for me. So I was like, if we’re releasing six songs without necessarily sending a single to radio, we’ll see which of the songs is a favourite, and we’ll go with that one… We’re just going with what people want, and these are important things for me to do.
Do you find that most of the people you meet in the world of music have quite bad taste in music?
Um… There’s a lot of music I don’t like, but there’s a lot of music I do like. I’m not here to say who’s got bad or good taste. I probably have bad taste!
Well let’s see. Who’s the best popstar?
Is Amy Winehouse a popstar?
[tooltip type="link" link="#" target="_self" tooltip="Obviously" style="top" ]Yes[/tooltip].
Then Amy Winehouse.
Who’s the worst popstar?
You know what’s not great? When all the songs sound the same. I don’t like that on albums. Where you can hear that they’ve worked with all the right people, all the boxes are ticked, it’s all the right formula, but there’s no heart or soul. So whoever that is.
Do you have a sense of mainstream media jumping on the YouTuber thing but not really understanding it? So for instance a couple of years ago I’d keep hearing from people at record labels that they were trying to sign YouTubers — they’d go ‘well we know there’s a big potential market, we’re just trying to figure out how to do it’. And across TV and radio and print media it feels like people are jumping on it without quite getting it. Does that make sense?
Yeah. I think the thing is, obviously there’s a huge new market and I don’t think anyone really understands it yet. There’s gonna be a lot of landgrabbing where every YouTuber and their mum is gonna be doing albums, and book deals, and TV shows, and movies. And I think people are freaking out and making sure they’re in on this wave that’s happening. And I think there are a lot of really talented, incredible people online and the really really good ones will float to the top. It’s going to take time, and there’ll be a lot of terrible stuff, but as long as it keeps happening there will be good stuff, and some people will be around for a while.
Why aren’t there any ugly YouTubers?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. The thing that sucks, in a way, is that YouTube is a democratic platform: what the people want, the people will see. It’s more a reflection on society than it is on YouTubers.
I’m interested in why you signed to a major label. Given that you’re in a position where you could theoretically have done everything yourself, or with an independent label, and still had a good profile when it came to iTunes charts and everything. For a lot of people in your position signing to a proper record label is quite an old fashioned idea. Why did it appeal?
This is probably going to be surprising to a lot of people but it was mostly a creative decision. I felt like I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do without a major label. There are totally artists who can — if you know your dream producer, you know your sound, you know who you want to work with then go for it, make it in your [tooltip type="link" link="#" target="_self" tooltip="The thought of pop music being made with dirty pants festooned everywhere is NOT A PLEASANT ONE" style="top" ]bedroom[/tooltip] and just upload it. You’ll make a lot more money than if you sign to a major! But I didn’t know how it worked. I wanted to be put in with producers and I wanted to have enough money to make music videos and to have money for marketing campaigns that go beyond my social accounts. There’s a bunch of ways to get things done that I wouldn’t have known about without my label. And I’ve been lucky because they’ve been, like, ‘do what you want to do, come to us when it’s ready and we’ll do our stuff’. They’ve trusted me with this weird rollout structure we’re doing, and the music video concepts. They’re being quite forward-thinking about the whole thing.
You talked about taking yourself beyond your existing social channels. What’s your label’s plan for making you more than someone who’s just a YouTuber who makes music?
As far as specifics go we have plans that will hopefully help me reach an audience I wouldn’t have reached on my own. I guess we’ll see if it works but to be honest I’d be completely happy making for just the audience I have right now.
That wouldn’t be very challenging though would it? They’d say they loved you and they’d call you dad if you released the sound of yourself shitting in a bucket.
Ideally I’d like to be able to meet a 19- or 20-year-old straight guy who comes up to me and goes (attempts ludicrously unconvincing 'bloke' voice) “yeah, I really like Wild”. I dunno. There are ambitions and goals I have that I don’t think I’d be able to do on my own, so it’s good to have people helping me reach more people. I think it’s about satisfying the fans I already have and hopefully making some new ones along the way.